I don’t know about you, but I assumed a lot before 2020 ... that the routines of my life would be pretty much the same tomorrow as today; that I could meet friends at the coffee shop or have them over for dinner or games; that I’d never walk into a grocery store and be surrounded by people in masks; that medical science could protect us.
I believed in my life. I believed in the immutability of our basic norms, in the moral fences that governed the governors, in the code of conduct underwriting our society. It turns out, though, that these were assumptions and completely false ones at that.
We find a wealth of assumptions about what we need in order to be happy and prosperous enshrined in the documents that serve as a foundation for American democracy.
There they are also known as “truths.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ...”
Which is exactly what an assumption is – something we believe to be true, while a belief is something we are certain is true without evidence to back it up and while a truth is a fact or belief that is accepted as true based on empirical evidence.
So what if we often cherry-pick the evidence ... leaving us again with an assumption. It all reminds me of a snake trying to eat its tail, smug in our assumptions.
So many things to assume.
“I believe the economy is great because the stock market keeps going up.” Even though the value and amount of money in our pocketbooks go down, we’re convinced.
“I believe the police do their absolute best under horrible circumstances. Look at ______.” Or the contrary. And, we’ll keep believing whatever no matter what.
Most of our currently popular assumptions-beliefs are fairly new. In the years when infants generally died before the age of 2, no one had any illusions about the economy. If it put money in your pocket, it was good. If it didn’t ... “Vote the bastards out.” Nor did people see the police as intrinsically good for anything but keeping change from happening and order in the society. If cops bashed heads and caused a few deaths ... too bad. If ... but you get the picture.
Scourges like COVID-19 came along at regular intervals. Locusts, plague, droughts ... the four horsemen of the Apocalypse swept towns and cities looking for victims, destroying economies, governments, countries. No one expected otherwise.
We’ve been lucky enough to live in a different age, one where we’ve developed our minds in ways that control huge swaths of our environment and where we’ve become adept at turning our assumptions into rock-solid truths. Perhaps, we’ve become complacent in the process.
Well, one infectious agent so small that it’s invisible to the human eye has changed everything and thrown a whole bunch of our assumptions-truths-beliefs into a cocked hat.
Giving us a lot to think about.